Following the debut of 17-year-old Isaac Stern in New York Town Hall in 1937, one of the music critics wrote: “From the distant sunny land of violin prodigies and movie stars, another violinist has arrived.”
Although the musical technique of the young talent was not immediately understood by critics, everyone appreciated his unconditional originality, which later made Stern one of the most outstanding violinists. He was called one of the best interpreters of Beethoven and Schumann, Mozart and Brahms, but Stern considered his main achievement to be the salvation of New York City’s Carnegie Hall.
In the mid-1950s, when construction of Lincoln Center began, the building that houses Carnegie Hall was slated for demolition. The famous 2,800-seat concert hall, opened in 1891 with a concert by the New York Symphony Orchestra conducted by Tchaikovsky, the hall in which Rachmaninoff, Horowitz, Rubinstein, Caruso, Maria Callas, and Stern himself performed, had to give way to another new York skyscraper.
“The struggle to save Carnegie Hall became one of the most important events in my life,” Stern later recalled. A lucky chance helped save the famous concert hall.
In 1960, during the Passover Seder, the Sterns met by chance with the Mayor of New York, Robert F. Wagner Jr. Over a glass of cold beer after a festive dinner, as Stern recalled, he managed to convince the mayor on the importance of Carnegie Hall for the history of all world music, and the latter already involved the Governor of New York Nelson Rockefeller, who allowed the municipality to buy the building and save it from demolition.
Since then, Isaac Stern has become known not only as an outstanding violinist, but also as the man who saved Carnegie Hall, the main concert hall of which was named after Isaac Stern.